No Free Lunch

Dealing with government: readers’ rants

/ 09:27 PM October 14, 2013

It takes a strong, upright and trusted leader at the top to bring about the “daang  matuwid” that President Aquino constantly professes. But as my experiences and observations, about which I wrote of last week, suggest, it is taking a while for the message to filter through to the workers in government we all have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. The stories I told of continuing corruption, arbitrariness and ineptness at lower levels of government elicited much reader reaction, as articles of this sort always do. Many people seem able to relate quite readily to stories of malpractices around us, and move them to write about their own similar experiences.

One reader affirmed my friend’s experience in her city treasurer’s office, and reported a similar recurrent experience in the Assessor’s Office in Taytay, Rizal. “When you pay your annual property tax, the officer collects an extra P100 but does not give a separate receipt for it… definitely illegal, but people are afraid to complain because they could be harassed and not receive proper services in the future,” he wrote. How many of us encounter this same modus operandi regularly?


Another reader shared his experience with the Land Transportation Office in his unnamed locality: “In 2010 I was made to wait a gruelling 12 hours just to take a written exam for my driver’s license. I was in line at 3:30 a.m. and was finally called to take the exam at 2:00 p.m. Why 3:30 a.m.? Kasi kapag 7:00 a.m. ka pipila, tapos na ang number dahil 200 lang daw ang quota nila. Pwede naman daw ako magpa-special transaction but it would cost me 4500 pesos. This is coming from an LTO employee, not a fixer. But I opted for the normal procedure. I got my license 3 days later, with araw-araw  na  pabalik  balik. Looking back now that I am living in Australia, I have no regrets of leaving the Philippines. Guess how long it took me to get a driver’s license here? 15 minutes!”

From Canada, a reader wrote: “Public service here, well as the term says, serves the public. Things like car registration and driver’s license valid for 5 years are obtained within 15 minutes… Car plates with the sticker is also received by the owner within 15 minutes, and the car plate is not registered to the car but rather the person putting in the request. The plate is pulled off the vehicle when the owner decides to sell it and (he/she) can ‘reuse’ the plate if he/she decides to get a new vehicle. Simply put, tracing is easier for whatever purpose. Everyone is treated equally without any sense of ‘entitlement.’”


A graduate student in Sweden wrote of his seemingly unending travails in renewing his passport, for which he had to fly to Vienna to visit the Philippine Embassy there. Having spent around P10,000 for processing and mailing fees along with airfare and hotel stay, and after countless costly phone follow-ups, he has yet to receive his new passport, nearly three months later. “I do not know why they could not just post the status in their web page, or contact us by e-mail or even Facebook in this digital world,” he laments. After repeated phone calls, “they finally informed me that they made a mistake by sending the passport via ordinary registered mail even as I paid to have it sent via DHL, but all they could say (was) sorry. What kind of excuse is that? But I could not do anything but wait. I have been waiting for two weeks but my passport has still not arrived. I tried to plead with them to help me get my passport but it seems my complaints fell on deaf ears…”

Our compatriots abroad who witness good governance learn to expect more of our own government. Someone wrote: “No one would know how corrupt, uncivilized and opportunistic our government employees and officials are, unless one has a chance to live in other countries like US, Australia, Canada and other advanced countries. In the US, I have not seen or heard any policeman accepting or asking for a bribe. In their government offices, no such ‘lagay.’ They will even give you a call if they need to… They can even mail you the papers or you can use the Internet to obtain what you need. In short, these public servants are civilized, ethical and responsible… unlike the Filipino public servants and officials.”

Another reader affirms: “There is no end to the creativity of civil servants in subjecting the public to all sorts of hurdles and inconveniences.”

From Qatar, a reader wrote: “(Here) they use credit card/debit card/e-card in payments for government transactions; you cannot pay cash… If you don’t have a card there is a bank kiosk inside the office where you can buy re-loadable cards… Once you enter the office you have to take a coupon showing your number, which counter, how many persons in queue, current time… this system should be used in our government offices… ang  mga  kawatan  matatakot  gumawa  ng  kalokohan.”

Another reader makes an apt observation: “The government worker is just following what the mayor, governor, congressmen, senators and presidents have been doing. This is no excuse but not until we punish (them), there will be no progress.” Indeed, if national politicians are perceived to get away with stealing hundreds of millions of pesos in pork barrel funds, how can we expect petty bureaucrats to feel guilty about pocketing what amounts to relatively small change?

Some readers pointed out that changing all these is our collective responsibility. “Everybody has to put some effort to correct our nation’s mistakes,” a reader wrote. Indeed, another one reminds us: “Walang  kurap  kung  walang  mangkukurap.”

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E-mail: [email protected]

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